Monika Wolk: The Joy of Sketching on Location

Updated: Nov 3, 2018

After completing her BA studies in Landscape Architecture in Poland and Portugal, Monika moved to Manchester (who wouldn’t?!) in 2013. She initially worked for a garden design practice, where she further developed her already impressive horticulture knowledge, and has since joined a landscape and urban design practice in the city centre.

When I met her three years later upon joining the firm myself for a brief period, she was already a very keen urban sketcher who always tried to encourage her colleagues to join a session. She would send reminders in the days leading up to and on the mornings of these sessions just to give people that extra shove (and often to ensure they brave the poor weather). Having watched her progress from sketch 1 to where she is now, it's clear to see the value in joining her.


The Joy of Sketching on Location

Monika Wolk, Cathedral Square, Birmingham, 10/06/2017

I got into the habit of sketching outdoors three years ago when I discovered Manchester Urban Sketching Group. A community which meets on a regular basis to sketch familiar neighbourhoods. At that time I was already interested in art and in painting landscapes with watercolours but I always relied on reference photos. I've decided to start painting more on location in order to sharpen my observation skills.

Sketches produced by members of the USK, photo by Monika Wolk, Withworth Art Gallery, 30/10/2016

My first gathering with sketchers was on the rooftop of the Sevendale House in Northern Quarter. It was the end of March and, as usual, very cold and wet. I managed to produce two small pencil drawings, nothing impressive, but it was enough to get me curious. Being surrounded by like-minded people gave me motivation to finish my drawings in-situ. It also made me feel less silly standing around with my sketchbook, knowing that someone next to me is doing the same.

Lots of things have changed since I started to draw on site. It helped me rediscover and appreciate Manchester more. Most of my sketches have been done here, and it's also where I live. I notice so much more when taking the time to look (and sketch). The opportunities for finding interesting subjects in this city are endless, so there is plenty to keep me motivated and challenged.

Monika Wolk, Praca da Batlha, 02/09/2017

Drawing collectively has given me the chance meet people from different age groups, backgrounds and countries. When I visited Portugal last year, I met with the local Urban Sketchers Group there, and after the session we all headed to a local cafe, where we shared our experience and discussed our sketchbooks. Drawing can be a very social thing!

On-location sketching has taught me how to get things onto paper faster, and made me a more decisive observer. I've learned how to quickly capture various subjects including interiors, buildings, people, landscapes, and even airplanes. Each new place and/or theme is a fresh new challenge that allows me to keep my work interesting. I'm always on the hunt for that perfect combination of striking composition and interesting light. In strong light colours appear richer, the contrast is deeper, and everything just looks more dramatic.

Monika Wolk, Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester, 08/10/2017

Monika Wolk, Manchester, 04/06/2017

I rarely sketch on loose pieces of paper. I prefer having all my drawings in one book. It's easy to carry around, and I can see the improvement in my skills more clearly. It gives me satisfaction just flicking through the pages and revisiting the memories and the atmosphere of the place where the drawing was created. My sketchbooks are very precious to me in that sense, but I don't mind when they appear worn. I prefer horizontal sketchbooks, as they're perfect for drawing panoramic views. My all time favourites are Moleskine and Strathmore.

When I draw, the rest of the world disappears. I listen, observe and I can really focus on what is in front of me. Something that was supposed to be just a tool to gain some skills and inspiration became an aim in itself. I don't draw much at home anymore, it doesn't satisfy me compared to being outside. Sketching became the perfect getaway from the nine to five office work and the constant scrambles of information from various sources, social media, computers and just from life itself.


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